By Graham Hill
VILLA boss Dean Smith is stepping up his bid to sign England keeper Jack Butland.
But it would cost a new club record £23million to bring him in from Stoke City.
The Potters star was heavily linked with Villa earlier this month when it became clear that Croatia keeper Lovre Kalinic would be allowed to leave on loan next season after failing to settle and losing his No1 spot to Jed Steer.
But Smith then made a bid for Cardiff goalkeeper Neil Etheridge who he and coach Neil Cutler know from their days at Walsall.
That bid was turned down and now the Birmingham Mail say that the focus is back on Butland with a bid expected later this week.
Bournemouth and Crystal Palace are also interested in Butland but they are believed to have been put off by Stoke’s asking price.
But £23million is less than the £30million Stoke wanted a year ago.
Ex-Blues keeper Butland is desperate to get back into the Premier League because he wants to boost his England hopes.
He has stayed in Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate’s plans – but Butland believes another season in the Championship with Stoke will put his place at risk.
A move to Villa would be less of an upheaval from his Cheshire home and might suit him better.
So far, Villa have not paid more than £8million for a player. But they could be about to spend £15million on Bournemouth defender Tyrone Mings and signing Butland would take their summer spending up to the £50million mark.